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Better school no funding, other schools funded


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The age old question...

 

PhD in engineering programs are in question.

 

Better school: in home town, friends and family, cheap housing/could buy a house, cold not great weather, better ranked, but no funding

Other schools: in great locales, sunny, beautiful, far away from everyone, housing costs are expensive/can't buy a house, slightly lower ranked, different program all together (EE here vs ME back home, I wanted to do ME also)

 

I'm older (30), wouldn't mind buying a place to fix up and flip when i graduate, but honestly, if they offer no funding is that because of the strength (or lack thereof) of your package? how likely are you to find funding in your first year or subsequent years?

Edited by dungheap
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Public school with in state tuition or private expensive school? Also, better ranked by how much? 5-10 spots is one thing and 50 spots is another.

 

You need to ask the department clearly how likely it is you'll get funding during your first year and later years. If it's a private school you're talking about 4-5 years here of $30 thousand/year so I don't think that would be an option. With in-state tuition, maybe it's doable depending on your circumstances.

 

I personally wouldn't go to a PhD program without funding, especially in engineering.

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the better school is private, and probably 30-40k a year.

the other is a UC school, fully covered

 

they're different EE vs ME, but rank in each depending on what you think rank means i guess, NRC rankings place the UC school in top 15, usnews makes it like 70 or something, the private school has good NRC and  usnews rankings (like 30th), so not sure how much that really matters.

 

i can't imagine a phd program would go unfunded the whole time, that's crazy, isn't an offer with no funding a way of saying you need to prove yourself? ugh

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How likely you are to find funding depends on the program.  Some programs admit everyone with no to minimal funding or fund people for only a year because everyone manages to find funding pretty quickly after the first semester or so.  In other programs, not getting awarded funding is a polite and indirect way to reject a candidate.  I would ask the departmental administrator this question and see what they say.

 

On the whole, I will always stand by "never pay for a PhD."

 

Also, I wouldn't choose a location based upon whether you can buy a house there unless you are not planning an academic career and you want to stay in that locale for a while after graduation.  I've heard it recommended that you shouldn't buy a house unless you plan to be somewhere for longer than 6 years, longer if the house is more money/has a certain interest rate.  Since your PhD program should only take 5-6 years, you may find yourself in a dilemma if you can't quickly sell the house in that area and you need to move for a postdoc or tenure-track position.

 

NRC rankings are much better than US News rankings, as US News rankings often use things that aren't important to academics.

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yeah i'm puzzled by this, why do schools honestly offer this option of accepting a student without giving them funding, especially in a sci/eng phd program? isn't that completely useless? i mean i guess it gives me a chance to pay my way for the first year....it doesn't necessarily mean the entire program will go unfunded does it!? insane!

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yeah i'm puzzled by this, why do schools honestly offer this option of accepting a student without giving them funding, especially in a sci/eng phd program? isn't that completely useless? i mean i guess it gives me a chance to pay my way for the first year....it doesn't necessarily mean the entire program will go unfunded does it!? insane!

 

Some people do have the money to pay for a doctorate.

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It's a tough decision. I think know which schools you're talking about. Have they sent out final funding decisions or simply still deciding?

 

Here's the thing, I think without some kind of funding in the future, it's not even a choice. Keep in mind you wouldn't be the first or the last person to have to drop out of a PhD because they couldn't get funding and couldn't afford the tuition. It does happen, even in engineering. One university I got admitted to tells you quite bluntly in the admission letter not to come if you don't get funding unless you can afford the full 4-5 years because there's no guarantee you'll get it in the future. Universities aren't trying to trick you into attending and then finding yourself unfunded and in debt, but this is what you must clear up with the department before even considering taking the risk.

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Send the department's graduate coordinator an email and ask what funding opportunities there are, what percentage of students get funded, and how likely in the case of not getting funding the first year, is it to get funding later on.

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Thanks for all the replies, so here's what I've done:

 

Since this was the College of Engineering, and the fact that my interests don't seem to mesh with the majority of people in the Mech E dept., I've asked to change my admission to another department EE where there are profs doing the exact kind of work I'm interested in. I reached out to the profs directly and have garnered some interest and am now speaking with them. The transfer of departments isn't even an issue luckily! So now I have to find someone with funds who finds me attractive. Never give up! This may also be unique to my situation because I applied cold to the program without a POI, giving me the freedom to shop around like this. Hopefully something nice happens, you never know!

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I wouldn't go to a school unfunded in engineering, that's just my 2 cents though. It sounds like you are factoring in other things like the major (ME/EE) or the location as well, so those could be important in your decision, not just the school. 

 

Applied cold to the program? Isn't that what most people do? I surely didn't have 'contacts' to any of the programs I got accepted to. It's too hard to tell if someone is a good fit for you without meeting them in person and seeing the lab dynamic. That's why I'm sticking with being a TA for my 1st year to feel out everything. I wouldn't say you need to be in a lab from day 1 working on research. In fact in my interviews most faculty told me they prefer someone who was a TA for 1-2 semesters early in there career. This however might be skewed since my long term goals are academia. 

 

Good luck.

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